Skip to main content

Full text of "Byzantine Churches In Constantinople"

See other formats

CHAP, xx          THE CHURCH OF THE GASTRIA                 269
Euphrosyne, the step-mother of the Emperor Theophilus,1 or to his mother-in-law Theoctista.2 Both ladies, it is certain, were interested in the House, the former taking the veil there/ while the latter resided in the immediate neighbourhood.4 Probably the convent was indebted to both those pious women for benefactions, and it was unquestionably in their day that the monastery acquired its greatest fame as the centre of female influence in support of the cause of eikons. Theoctista was. especially active in that cause, and through her connection with the court not only strengthened the opposition to the policy of her son-in-law, but also disturbed the domestic peace of the Imperial family. Whenever the daughters of Theophilus visited her she took the opportunity to condemn their father's views, and would press her eikons on the girls' lips for adoration. One day, after such a visit, Pulcheria, the youngest princess3 a mere child, in giving an account of what had transpired, innocently told her father that she had seen and kissed some very beautiful dolls at her grandmother's house. Whereupon Theophilus, suspecting the real facts, forbade his daughter to visit Theoctista again. On another occasion the court fool, Denderis, surprised the Empress Theodora in her private chamber kissing eikons and placing them over her eyes. c What are these things ? ' he inquired. c My beautiful dolls which I love,* she replied. Not long afterwards the jester was summoned to amuse Theophilus while sitting at table. c What is the latest news ? * asked the emperor. £When I last visited C£mamma" (the jester's familiar name for the empress) I saw most beautiful dolls in her room.' Instantly the emperor rose, beside himself with rage, and rushing to his wife's apartments violently denounced her as a heathen and Idolater. €Not at all,' answered Theodora, in her softest accents, c that fool of yours saw me and my maidens looking into a mirror and mistook the faces reflected there for dolls/ The emperor did not press the case, but a few days later the servants of Theodora caught Denderis and gave him a sound thrashing for telling tales, dismissing
1 Leo Gram. p. 214.                                             2 Zonaras, Hi. p. 358.
3 Theoph, Cent, pp. 625, 628, 790.                      4 Ibid. p. 90.